Social justice, Care Bear Stare, and Billie Holiday’s ghost. WARP Theatre’s 2017 spring showcase, 4twenty, is a fun, uneven, and undeniably Seattle-grown night of cannabis-inspired theater.
4twenty’s mission is to tell “stories that examine, celebrate, demystify, and normalize cannabis culture.” The pieces may share a common theme, but the range of genres and tones couldn’t be wider.The program of short plays, film, and spoken word draws from weed’s demonized past to its legalized present. 4twenty includes Seattle-specific sketch comedy, politically-charged historical fiction, a romantic-comedy musical, and more. The showcase’s highlights include writing and directing from John Paul Sharp, Amy Youngblood, and G. Mike West, along with engaging performances from Leila Marie Ali, Elizabeth Hagert, Michael Lacker, Molly Blades, and Eric Singletary.
Unfortunately, the quality of the writing and acting in 4twenty varies as much as the content of its sketches. It’s full of WTF? moments from hilarious to cringe-worthy. There are a few moments when the audience is wondering what will happen next not because of an engaging story, but because a segment just doesn’t work. However, these are countered by the show’s highlights, and by WARP’s grassroots charm.
4twenty doesn’t really combat stereotypes (at least not those prevalent in present-day Western Washington) of cannabis users. Many are depicted as lazy man-children. One straight-laced business man inhales weed secondhand and starts dressing in drag, something that wouldn’t seem out of place in Reefer Madness (the 1936 version.) Rather than presenting new ideas about those who use cannabis, 4twenty gives a more nuanced view of weed stereotypes and gives them a positive spin. The artists present the humorous, serious, and kind of obnoxious aspects of cannabis culture, and take ownership of them all.
Overall, 4twenty is an uneven but fun show. If you’re interested in a unique night of homegrown theater and are willing to go along with WARP’s weird ride, this showcase won’t disappoint. And most of the Belltown weed stores should still be open when the curtain falls.
4twenty by WARP Theatre. Theatre 4, the Armory, 305 Harrison St, Seattle Center, Seattle. Fri – Sun, 4/14 – 4/22, 7:30 p.m. Tickets and info: https://warptheatre.org/4twenty/